As Jersey City and Hoboken Fight Over Bike-Share, Everyone Loses

Map: Google
Jersey City and Hoboken have two separate bike-share systems that serve an area smaller than the first phase of NYC’s Citi Bike. Map: Google

A dispute between Hoboken and Jersey City is making the decision to operate separate bike-share systems in each city look even worse.

In late 2013, the two cities — along with neighboring Weehawken — announced plans for a combined bike-share system, called Hudson Bike Share. At first Hudson Bike Share was envisioned as a “smart lock” system that allows users to dock their bikes anywhere (unlike New York’s Citi Bike and most other bike-share systems, where users dock at stations with fixed locations).

Teaming up made a lot of sense, since the cities cover a relatively small geographic area no larger than the initial Citi Bike service zone. Unfortunately, things fell apart. As the Hudson Bike Share rollout dragged on, Weehawken withdrew completely. Hoboken went ahead with a smart lock system, while Jersey City opted for the same platform as Citi Bike, giving members access to New York City’s bike-share network as well.

The decision to run separate systems for each city was deeply flawed, according to TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt. “The keys to high ridership bike-share are scale and density,” he said, “so obviously having two different systems in adjacent small cities, you’re automatically sacrificing on scale.”

As soon as Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer failed to agree on a shared system, they limited the usefulness of each bike-share network to their constituents.

The situation has only deteriorated since. The sight of Hoboken bike-share bikes locked outside Jersey City PATH stations has triggered a conflict that benefits no one. Last week, the Jersey City Council unanimously passed an ordinance intended to prohibit Hoboken bike-share users from parking at public Jersey City bike racks.

“It seems that some of the things that are going on right now between the two municipalities are creating difficulties for customers of both bike-shares,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign New Jersey Director Janna Chernetz told Streetsblog. “Bike-share should be improving connectivity and improving access to the ability to live car-free, either by choice or by economics.”

For north Jersey towns and cities, that would be best accomplished by setting aside differences and reviving the multi-city approach. But with contracts signed and bikes on the street, Jersey City and Hoboken are probably stuck, at least for the near future.

Cyndi Steiner of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition has proposed steps the two cities could take to making the best of a bad situation. She argues that an agreement allowing each bike-share provider to install a set number of docks in the other city would benefit both cities. “These riders don’t just bring their bikes; they also bring their wallets,” Steiner wrote.

Few parts of the country have so many densely-populated and interdependent cities as Hudson County, Steiner noted. If north Jersey electeds want bike-share to work well in their cities, they’ll need to coordinate across city borders.

  • AnoNYC

    Can someone explain how bicycles use the smart lock system don’t end up concentrated worse than bicycles in a fixed station system? How do you keep a dispersal of bikes when each individual bicycle can be located in any place?

    Whatever the case, Citi Bike is the way to go because NYC has the largest ridership and coverage area in the metropolitan area. Why should you have to use a different system when you cross over the river? Has our fragmented mass transportation system not taught us enough? We need much better regional cooperation and forethought.

  • fdtutf

    I believe the reason Hoboken went with its own system is that its prices are significantly lower than CitiBike.

  • Richard

    Why doesn’t Hoboken just convert to CitiBike? CitiBike looks like the winning team to be on.

  • HamTech87

    It really should be the regional transportation agencies — MTA, NJT, PATH, etc. — who operate bike share systems. Bike Share helps expand the reach of transit, helping transit riders reach the ‘last mile’ or avoid complicated transfers.

    Hangzhou, the world’s biggest, has the right idea:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangzhou_Public_Bicycle

  • qrt145

    “the Jersey City Council unanimously passed an ordinance intended to prohibit Hoboken bike-share users from parking at public Jersey City bike lanes.”

    You probably meant “bike racks”. 🙂

    I’m waiting for the ordinance that prohibits rental cars from parking on public streets for longer than two hours…

  • Because apparently, for some people, pride is far more important than doing the right thing, the useful thing, the helpful thing, or even the logical thing.

  • A single citibike station costs over $35,000. The smartbike station is just a geocoded bicycle rack – $100 for 2 bikes.

  • Cost.

  • BBnet3000

    Probably they’re locked into a contract with their current vendor.

  • BBnet3000

    Wow, that ordinance just sounds like spite. Awful policy.

  • AMH

    This is so pathetic. If two small cities can’t coordinate a bike share system, what hope is there?

  • disqus_5fRElKmFks

    I’m about to go out for lunch and was planning on biking to Jersey City. Does this mean I can’t legally bring a Hudson Bike Share bike into JC? How asinine.

  • AnoNYC

    You get what you pay for. How would it be possible to distribute thousands of bicycles throughout Hoboken? I assume that that rebalancing throughout the city is almost impossible. I bet that during the day many of the bikes are located around the NYC bound transit hubs, those that weren’t located in unusual places. In the evening, the bikes return to locations near residences and probably sit there till they are used in the same manner again? Those that do occasionally use a bike for a non-traditional commute end up eliminating that bike from the system until someone rides it into the general population of heavy users?

  • AnoNYC

    Most likely, but they segregated themselves from the regional bicycle transportation network.

  • AnoNYC

    I agree, but like the subways perhaps it is inevitable.

  • AnoNYC

    This failure in regional cooperation is largely why we have the transportation issues we have.

  • Kevin M

    You still can. The measure prohibits locking the bike up for more than 2 hours at a time, so grabbing lunch would be a perfectly legitimate use.

  • fdtutf

    And? They had every right to decide that access for their own lower-income citizens was more important than tying into CitiBike.

  • AnoNYC

    Citi Bike has an arrangement with NYC to offer discounts to NYCHA residents. With regional strength, the cities could pressure them to offer lower annual memberships to lower income residents. In return, the cities could offer incentives of some type.

  • fdtutf

    That’s hand-waving. Other parts of the region may not have convenient ways (“NYCHA residents”) of determining eligibility, which would impose an additional layer of bureaucracy on the system, with the attendant costs and burdens for both the municipality and the users.

  • AnoNYC

    Hoboken has a housing authority as well.

    http://www.myhhanj.com/

    Being constricted to one city is more limiting to more people than joining the regional network. Right now an annual membership for Hudson Bike Share costs $95+taxes. Citi Bike by comparison is $5 a month for NYCHA residents.

    The region as a collective could pressure Citi Bike to offer that ride for all housing authority residents in the metropolitan area.

  • ahwr

    If you’re 65 or older you can get a reduced fare metrocard.

    http://web.mta.info/nyct/fare/rfindex.htm

    How burdensome is that to run? Instead of just limiting the citibike discount to NYCHA residents what would happen if it was expanded to anyone with a medicaid card? In terms of both bureaucratic costs and lost revenue due to legitimate discounts and due to fraud.

  • Matt

    I’m a Hudson Bike Share member in Hoboken and you guys are getting this all wrong. First of all, the reason Hoboken didn’t choose Citibike is because Citibike did not even submit a proposal when Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken all issued a joint RFP for bike share. Secondly, the two cities didn’t just decide to “go their separate ways”. All three cities signed a contract with Nextbike (Hoboken’s bike share provider) and then Jersey City chose to breach the contract by backing out before the system could launch. Then Jersey City somehow awarded a contract to Citibike a couple months later without even issuing another RFP, leaving Hoboken to pick up the pieces by itself. Third, Hoboken offered to pay for additional public bike racks in Jersey City to help alleviate bike rack crowding, but Jersey City chose the path of draconian regulations instead. This helps explains things a little better: http://www.njbwc.org/a-tale-of-two-bike-shares/.

  • Matt

    Hudson Bike Share is a “smart bike” system, not smart lock (that’s like Zagster). The smart bike technology is like a 3.0 to the 2.0 that is Citibike, Divvy Bikes, and most other smart dock based programs in that with the technology on each bike it allows for much greater system flexibility and reduced costs. It’s not a free-for-all like you’re suggesting where bikes are just randomly parked all over the city. They are clustered into stations just like Citibike and every other smart dock system except the docking stations are more like bike corrals which allows for huge cost savings. Having GPS on each bike provides a lot of additional benefits as well. Unlike Citibike and other smart dock systems, you can actually track the precise route of all trips to see where riders are traveling to get from station to station. Another huge benefit of the smart bike technology is that you don’t have to worry about getting blocked from returning a bike at a full station (i.e. with all the docks utilized). With the GPS and locking tech right on the bike, you can lock the bike to itself (secures the wheel) and park it next to the full dock, which I’ve done several times at the Hoboken PATH station on my way to work when there’s way more bikes parked than available docks. And lastly, until Jersey City banned bike share bikes from being parked on public racks for more than two hours, you could park a Hudson Bike Share bike at a handful of public bike racks in downtown Jersey City at no additional charge even though it was outside of the service area. I assume this is because with GPS tracking on every bike, Hudson Bike Share can simply create polygons on a map over public bike racks (or anywhere, really) and they essentially become “virtual stations”. There’s still a few of these no additional fee zones in Weehawken. With Citibike, you can only rent and return bikes directly from docking stations, which means you’re pretty much stuck within the service area unless you want to incur huge overages. So really it’s not surprising that smart bike systems are trending big time in cities that have launched within the last year or so (Phoenix, Portland, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Hoboken, etc.). Note that Portland’s upcoming program, “Biketown”, is going to be operated by Motivate (Citibike’s operator) but with smart bikes instead.

  • AlexTheGreat

    doesn’t change the fact that Hoboken is the ONLY town using that stupid bike system. Jersey City is not, Weehawken is not. Hoboken should align itself with New York as Jersey city is doing. Don’t get your head too big, 75% of the people in Hoboken are there because of NYC. Zimmer the dork sucks, plain and simple.

  • AlexTheGreat

    Goes to show why you have a metropolis on one side of the river and a bunch of dysfunctional idiotic towns, just as densely populated on the Jerz side. Historically run by morons.

  • AlexTheGreat

    Because Dawn Zimmer sucks. I live in Hoboken, work in the city and would MUCH prefer Citibike. It makes absolutely no sense.

  • AlexTheGreat

    Guess what, if NYC is not doing it, Hoboken should not be doing it. Doesn’t matter if its version 9.0 with pudding on top.

  • AlexTheGreat

    Really? You know who is using the bikes? Frat boys working in NYC. and guess what, there would be many more riders if it was citibikes.

  • Matt

    Whoa take it easy there Mr. Hater. There’s several cities around the country using Nextbike now and it’s actually one of the largest bike share operators in the world. Putting those facts aside, how does a local government “align itself” with New York on bike share if New York’s bike share operator doesn’t even bid on the program?

  • Matt

    Perfect logic. You sir, are a genius.

  • AlexTheGreat

    Its the logic of don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Jersey City has learned this and are ensuring continuity for people working in the city in terms of commuting. Hoboken does not seem to realize why there is a building/population/tax boom going on in that little town. Its because of the great city across the river, continuity = efficiency.

  • BBnet3000

    Ah, that is a good point, and is mentioned in the linked story but not this one.

  • K$

    I think the Jersey City and NYC relationship is overstated here. From my understanding, while the systems are linked, you cannot ride a Jersey City Bike across the river to NYC. The link is that you have an account for both systems, but one in which a bike rented in either system must be returned within the network of origin.

  • fdtutf

    Two statements with no substantiation. Bye, Felicia.

  • fdtutf

    The region as a collective could pressure Citi Bike

    Perhaps that’s the crux of the problem: Hoboken may have wanted a municipally run system, and I don’t blame them.

  • AlexTheGreat

    I live in the GD town, how’s that for substantiation? Now back to your boring suburban life. Enjoy.

  • fdtutf

    “Boring suburban life”?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Nice try. You’re dismissed.

  • AnoNYC

    Thanks for the clarification on the technology.

  • AnoNYC

    You can’t ride the bike over the river, but you can ride to a ferry/bus/subway connection in JC and then continue your ride on the opposite side (NYC) without paying.

  • ahwr

    https://hudsonbikeshare.com/stations/

    Most stations have bikes available right now.

    They charge $10 if you leave a bike in Hoboken if it’s not at a station. And $25 if it’s outside of Hoboken but not at a designated no fee zone. I think if the station is full and you leave it at the same block face that you don’t get hit with the $10 fee. One nice feature is being able to ‘park’ the bike during the ride if you want to make a quick stop.

  • ahwr

    Hoboken can have their own bike share system and still integrate pricing like that. So what’s the big deal if citibike doesn’t run one of the systems?

  • Actually, you can’t. In Section 5 of the CitiBike user agreement, “Prohibited Acts”, it says “You may not bring a Citi Bike bicycle in a car, ferry or train, or ride or transport a Citi Bike bicycle from New York to New Jersey or vice versa.”

  • AnoNYC

    Yes, I stated that.

    You can ride a Citi Bike from your neighborhood in JC, dock it at a transportation hub, enter NYC and then grab another bike using the same key without charge.

  • AnoNYC

    The problem is that with Hoboken’s bike share network, you are only limited to Hoboken. If you want to travel into the rest of the region (like the enormously larger NYC), you’ll have to pay for an additional service to use the Citi Bikes.

    If you were to bike commute into NYC via bike share on a regular basis, that means you’ll need two annual memberships. A whole lot of people who live in Hoboken, work and hang out in NYC.

  • Ah, so you did. Sorry for not catching that.

    But, what about this “without charge” business? Are you referring to members, who pay a flat rate per year?

  • fdtutf

    But then you’re paying additionally just to cross the river. That seems like a shitty deal. Is there a technical or legal reason why they can’t let people take bikes across the river, I wonder?

  • Matt

    That would be nice and I’d love to use Citibike in Hoboken but I don’t know how that comes to fruition if Citibike isn’t even bidding on the program. I’m hopeful that over the next few years both systems work out the kinks and learn from one another and then when the contracts are up the two cities can reevaluate the prospect of having one joint program again. Honestly, given how strongly linked Hudson County, NJ and NYC are it’s a shame that NYC didn’t think more regionally when attempting to launch its own program a few years ago.

  • ahwr

    They can integrate pricing and still have their own bike network. The question is why haven’t motivate and hudson bike share worked something out? Is the demand for that integration overstated? Does motivate not want to work with a competitor?

    Given the minimal costs involved if you use the services often getting two memberships isn’t the end of the world. What is that, $250 for the year?

  • I don’t think CitiBike ever bid and as conspiracy theories go, JC was on board with Hudson Bikeshare until a company that employs Fullop’s brother bought Alta.

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